Road to 2019 polls: 5 factors that may make Chandrababu Naidu join hands with Congress

To assume relevance on the national stage and in Telangana again, it is clear that the TDP can’t go into polls without an ally.
Road to 2019 polls: 5 factors that may make Chandrababu Naidu join hands with Congress
Road to 2019 polls: 5 factors that may make Chandrababu Naidu join hands with Congress
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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu at a recent meeting of his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) a few days back sought to put an end to the speculations over its stance in the 2019 elections, by hinting that it may ally with another party in the Telangana polls.

By doing so, he made it clear that the TDP cannot afford to live in isolation, neither at the local level nor the national level, after its breakup with the NDA.

Besides, the hint suggests a pre-poll alliance in Telangana with the Congress, against which the TDP was founded by matinee idol and Naidu’s mentor NT Rama Rao in 1982 on the plank of self-respect of Telugu people.

It’s obvious that the TDP, if it sails with the Congress in Telangana, will have to soften its stand and enter a tactical alliance with the latter in Andhra Pradesh too. The TDP leadership is currently polarised, debating for or against allying with the Congress. But the rival parties, such as the Telangana Rastra Samithi and BJP, have been taking Chandrababu to task for “diluting” the anti-Congress philosophy of the TDP.

Leading this anti-Naidu brigade was NTR’s daughter Daggubati Purandhareswari of the BJP, who embraced the Congress to become a Union minister in the UPA after his father’s death.  

However, Naidu’s pro-Congress overtures have helped him earn some brownie points in strengthening his sagging position in national politics and reviving his party on the brink of disintegration in Telangana.

Tit for tat

Wounded by the alleged treachery and deception played out by the BJP-led NDA after coming to power with the help of TDP, Naidu is anxiously waiting to take sweet revenge against his friend-turned-foe and the alliance with the Congress may turn out to be a master stroke.

The TDP’s alliance in 2014 helped the NDA to get 19 Lok Sabha seats from Andhra and Telangana, where the BJP is a non-entity. To Naidu’s utter embarrassment, his rival YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao of the TRS began receiving top priority from the Prime Minister at the expense of Naidu, regardless of the fact that they were not partners of the ruling coalition at the Centre.   

An inevitable partnership

Even if Congress has been called ‘evil’ in the state, Naidu will want to settle scores with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Therefore, the pragmatic and shrewd leader in Naidu will allow him to re-orient his party line with the changing times, without holding on to mere ideological moorings.

NTR’s anti-Congress battle cry came when it was a monolith in power in Delhi, gobbling up the federal spirit and rights of states in the early 1980s. Now, with the BJP replacing the Congress in Delhi, the Congress is gradually fading out. In 2014 the Congress was a demon in the eyes of Andhra people for presiding over the bifurcation of the state and the TDP’s anti-Congress narrative proved to be a windfall for both ruling combine then.

After the division, the Narendra Modi-led government ruled out AP’s demand for Special Category Status and did precious little to rebuild the truncated state. But the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, offered to grant the special status, if given a chance in 2019. This promise may temper the Andhra peoples’ anger towards Congress, making Naidu’s anti-Congress rhetoric seem redundant. It’s incumbent upon the CM to reconstruct the narrative surrounding truncated promises of the NDA government for 2014 election.

King maker role in store

Naidu will not have to play second fiddle to the Delhi bosses unlike his NDA days if the anti-BJP experiment clicks. He may play a much bigger role by cobbling up a front with regional parties in the case of Congress emerging as a junior partner. Or, the Congress may even have to depend on Naidu for mobilisation of numbers from regional parties in case the 2019 election throws up a hung parliament with Congress as a major player.

So, he can restore the power he wielded as ‘king maker’ during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s regime in New Delhi.

Win-win with Rahul?

After all, Rahul Gandhi is still considered a greenhorn in national politics and Naidu may find him more pliable when compared to Narendra Modi. Therefore, Rahul is likely to fit into Naidu’s frame, which was evident at the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, where the TDP leader was seen throwing his hands round the Congress leader affectionately in a photo shoot.

Telangana’s TDP in need of an elixir

Naidu’s party is facing a threat in Telangana with the emergence of a new state under the leadership of TRS leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao. The party is in desperate need of an elixir, which Naidu could find in the Congress. The TRS, on a poaching spree, encouraged the defection of 13 out of 15 MLAs who won on TDP tickets and a large number of middle-level leaders also deserted the party.

The TDP, as a result, became leaderless after the exit of its firebrand leader A Revanth Reddy. Naidu is understandably under pressure from his Telangana party functionaries to avenge KCR by joining hands with Congress and save the party.

Views expressed are author’s own

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